Men will continue to dominate the data industry because most girls believe the so-called spoddy “Stem” subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths are too hard and there are few role models to persuade them otherwise.
That is the rather worrying conclusion of a new study by Accenture, which found 60% of 12-year-old girls in the UK and Ireland thought Stem subjects were too difficult, with 47% claiming these types of activities more suited to boys.
Meanwhile, half of all teachers and 43% of parents claimed the idea of boys being better at Stem subjects than girls is the reason for low female uptake in these subjects.
However, parents also carry some responsibility, the study shows, as over half claim they do not know what benefits Stem can offer their daughters; and only 14% understand the career opportunities open to their daughters.
Emma McGuigan, managing director for Accenture Technology in the UK & Ireland, said: “Our research suggests that, while getting girls enthused about subjects like technology or engineering must start at home, encouragement needs to continue in early education, such as nursery and primary school, so that girls don’t conclude at a young age that math and science are too difficult.
“It’s worrying that girls’ interest in subjects tails off so early in their time at secondary school. With such a small percentage of parents understanding what these subjects can offer their daughters, it is not surprising that girls become disconnected.”
In what will no doubt be a kick in the teeth to DunnHumby co-founder and queen of the data industry Edwina Dunn, a lack of role models was also highlighted. Despite the fact that she has called for a change in attitudes to bring more women into the profession, the study shows 77% of girls believe Stem sectors do not have enough women who can be looked up to, and most girls say parents and teachers were their biggest influencers for choice of study subjects.
“It’s important that girls understand that these subjects are as much for them as they are for boys,” added Tech Partnership chief executive Karen Price. “While a lot of fantastic work has been done to encourage women and girls to embrace Stem, females still only comprise a small percentage of the workforce in related industries.”
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